Book 2 – Chapter Twenty-Two

The huge feral druid smashed a few imps under his paw, then tilts his head to peer down at Alisbeth. “Well met… I think?”

Grimory jogs after her with an embarrassed yet amused grin. “Sorry, friend. She likes animals. I see you’ve got an infestation on your hands—er—paws?” He sets his palms on his hips and looks about at the corrupted totems and packs of roaming imps and satyrs.

The druid growls in his throat. “Yes. It is Xandris, one of the first to betray us and accept the curse of Xavius.”

“Want us to kill him?” Alisbeth asks, jumping up and down in excitement.

“That would be helpful,” he says with a purring laugh.

“Yay! I’m Alisbeth, by the way.”

“I’m Thaon.”

“Grimory. So where can we find this asshole?” He peers around the area again, taking note of the abandoned houses, red vines, and alcove on the other side of the creek. “Also, I suppose you wouldn’t mind us clearing up some of this mess?”

“If you wouldn’t mind helping to clean up my grove, it would be kind of you. Xandris is in the largest building, reigning over like his own personal town.” He sighs and melds into the shadows. “I’ll meet you there, friends.”

Alisbeth blinks after the druid. “Coooooool…

Grimory nods and calls forth his demonic claws. “A shame you threw that axe. A sword is nice but axes really sing against demon bones.”

Alisbeth’s mouth drops at the corners into an open frown, her eyes round. “Why did you let me forget my axe?” she demands, shaking him by the shoulders. “We have to go back!”

“Well perhaps you shouldn’t have—” Grimory winces as multiple balls of flame hit him in the back. Skin smoldering, he turns with a growl and breathes a cloud of his own flames over a group of imps. Before he can turn and say more, two satyrs notice the commotion and make their way toward the couple.

Alisbeth withdraws the Redblade, slashing the glowing green blade at the nearest satyr’s stomach.

The satyr groans as its innards spill to the soil. It curses them with its final breath. The other is just as easily sliced in twain and Grimory sets off in the direction of the house on the hill.

“We’ll go back for it after. Come on.”

Alisbeth nods and sets off after him, cutting packs of imps in half and breaking corruption totems as she runs. At the tall house she looks inside the open door and purses her lips. A grey satyr paces the room, taking in the belongings as though deciding which can stay and which he’ll smash.

Grimory smiles and holds out a hand, beckoning her inside. “Ladies first,” he says in a hushed tone.

She bites her lip and smiles at him, the runs into the house, her sword ready to slash at Xandris.

The satyr’s brow furrows as he turns to the death knight. “These druids were weak,” he says, motioning to the scorched corpses on the floor. “I hope you have more fight in you than they did!”

“Oh, you want a fight?” Alisbeth asks on a laugh.

“All right, you’re taking too long,” Grimory says as he rushes past her, swiping at Xandris in an upward motion.

Alisbeth jumps behind the satyr and attacks from behind, aiming for his arms to keep him from striking back. Xandris growls in agony and anger as one of his arms falls to the mangled rug below, blood staining the threads. With his other wounded arm he whirls to strike Alisbeth, but stops as claws burst from his chest, gore splattering forth.

He croaks a gravelly, “No,” before making a last attempt at striking Alisbeth, the only target in his reach.

Xandris’s claws slash through the exposed leather beneath Alisbeth’s breastplate. He rips slashes through her side as he falls to the floor beneath the weight of the great feral druid. Alisbeth purses her lips and presses her hand to her side.

“Thank you for your help,” Thaon says. “There is one more, though. Kagraxxis. He is holding a friend of mine prisoner in the cave up the—” He lifts his head to sniff the air, then flattens his ears against his neck. “There is an even darker presence here… Will you free my friend while I sniff out this other interloper?”

“Of course.” Grimory nods to the tiger, then turns to Alisbeth, clenching his jaw when he sees she’s wounded. “Are you all right to go on?”

Alisbeth scoffs and rolls her eyes at Grimory as the druid fades into the shadows and walks away. “This? Please. Come on. I’ve had worse.” She nudges him with her elbow. “Just a flesh wound. I’ll fix it. Let’s go!” She takes off at a run, then slows to a slight limp as the wound stings with her movements.

Grimory furrows his brow upward and puts a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “No, you’re hurt.” The corners of his mouth tighten. “And I don’t have any potions. Do that death knight thing you do.”

She giggles and motions up the hill at a cluster of corruption-tainted imps. “What do you think I’m doing? Come on.” She weaves her fingers through his and pulls him up the hill. Once at the imps, she grips them all in a tight pile with multiple purple tendrils, then raises her sword. Black erupts from her in a sonic wave, then a red aura surrounds her. As the imps die, her wound heals with no sign of it having been there. She winks over her shoulder at Grimory. “You want some of this?” She gestures down at the imps trying to bite at her ankles.

Grimory gives an inward sigh of relief, then smirks. “I do.” He then glances down at the imps. “Oh. You meant them.” He lifts a foot and punts one of the demons down the slope. He then blows fel fire over the remaining imps and continues up the path. “I assume we’ll know who we’re looking for when we find her.”

Alisbeth giggles as the imp flies down, rolling to a stop, dead, at the bottom of the path. “Well, we know she’s being held captive. And that she’s not all red and creepy.” She skips up the path, humming as she slices through another group of imps. Without pausing to finish them off, Alisbeth runs into a cave. “Oh! In here!”

The Illidari follows, cutting down a satyr as it attempts to follow them into the cave. He steps into the damp darkness and nearly trips over a gnarled, corrupted vine. “Hello?” he calls.

“Hello?” a voice calls out from the depths of the cave. Something smacks against wood.

“Silence!” a demon growls.

“I think we found them,” Alisbeth whispers, sidling up beside Grimory.

The demon hunter wraps his fingers around Alisbeth’s hand to pull her through the darkness, until they reach a large area illuminated by torches and glowing plants. The floor grows wet with shallow water. “There.” He points to a Night elf woman inside a crude cage of wood and yet another satyr on guard—this one large, violet, and clad in armor with long white hair.

“Want to make it fast or enjoy it a little?” Alisbeth asks, absently scratching her fingertips in his goatee.

Grimory’s eyes flick from her hand to her face. “Well, time is a factor. Let’s get this over with. I’m…actually starting to feel the lack of sleep.” He furrows his brow and pinches the bridge of his nose. “And the hangover.”

Alisbeth smiles sweetly. “After this I’ll take care of you, okay?” She taps his nose and charges for the satyr, sword swinging as she drops decay under his feet.

He dodges her first swing and smacks her with enough force to knock her backward.

Grimory gives a smile but doesn’t respond, then follows her in. He catches her as she’s blown back, pushing her back to her feet before rushing forward. “Kagraxxis, I presume?” He slashes at the satyr’s unarmored stomach.

Alisbeth slashes back into the fight, her anger igniting the green edges of the Redblade.

“Thaon must have sent you,” Kagraxxis says. He laughs. “You’re all fools.”

“Ugly and deductive,” Grimory sneers, growing irritated when his attacks are easily dodged. He takes a short step away to give Alisbeth a wide swing. “Too bad neither of those qualities will save you.”

Kagraxxis begins casting a spell that Alisbeth decides shouldn’t be allowed to finish. Shadows wrap around the satyr to suffocate him.

“Now, Grim! Hit him hard!” Alisbeth hits the satyr with all of the strength in her body, hoping that with Grimory, she has enough.

The Illidari nods and runs his claws up into the man’s back, but frowns when they rake against bone inside instead of running through.

“Grim?” Alisbeth questions.

The satyr comes out of the silence and glowers down at the death knight. He takes her by the throat and lifts her. “Weaklings.”

Alisbeth giggles. “Doesn’t matter, we’ll still kill you.” She kicks out at him as he holds her at arm’s length.

“He’s a lot bulkier than the rest.” Grimory growls when he sees the deep gashes he’s made have seemingly no effect on the demon. He dislodges his claw and drags his nails across the back of Kagraxxis’ ankle instead, hoping to do enough damage to at least grant them an opening or cause him to drop Alisbeth.

Kagraxxis growls in anger and throws the death knight across the room. He turns his sights on Grimory, slashing at him with jagged claws.

Alisbeth grunts as she hits the wall. She pushes to her feet and runs back into the fight. “Stop throwing me!”

Grimory turns his head to watch for where and how Alisbeth would land, but the distraction leaves him open and the satyr’s claws rake across his chest and neck. Blood rushes down his abdomen and he swallows a cry of pain. After stumbling back, he leaps forward again and returns the favor, slashing at the demon’s face and ignoring the pain.

GRIM!” Alisbeth shrieks. She throws out a purple line to grip the satyr to her and away from the demon hunter. While he’s still disoriented, she dives between his legs and scrambles up his back, using his long hair to pull her up.

“What is this?” he barks, twisting this way and that to grab at the scrambling blood elf. “What are you doing?”

“I’m f—” Grimory winces as he runs forward, resisting the urge to bring his hand to his neck to inspect the damage to one of his vital areas. “Fine.” He breathes fire at the satyr’s feet in an attempt to distract him, to stop him from shaking off Alisbeth. <<Don’t kill him completely, Ali!>> he calls in Thalassian.

Alisbeth plants one of the spikes at the end of the Redblade into Kagraxxis’s shoulder and makes a face at Grimory. <<Why?>>

Kagraxxis cries out and spins to shake the elf free, then stomps his cloven hooves at the demon hunter.

<<I can use him to heal. He just needs to be alive.>> He moves out of the way of the massive hoof and splays his claws. The tips glow with bright yellow-green energy. He swipes at the satyr’s heart and, at the peak of his swing, an emerald, ethereal shard flies off as though cut from the demon’s insides and clatters across the floor. “Okay, do your worst.”

Alisbeth bites her lip and smiles. “That was so cool!”

As the satyr shakes again she squeaks and holds on tight. When the opportunity presents itself, Alisbeth swings her blade around to plant it in his neck.

Kagraxxis howls in pain as blood spurts from the wound.

“More necessary than cool, but thanks,” the demon hunter responds through a grimace and, seeing the satyr cease his thrashing, takes the opportunity to bury his claws into Kagraxxis’ belly. Blood hits him in the chest, mixing with his own.

The satyr groans and falls to his knees. “Impossible…”

Alisbeth drags him to the ground and begins hacking at his neck to remove the head entirely.

Grimory makes his way to the soul shard—now hovering inches above the stone floor—and picks it up. It shatters in his hand, turning into a swirling cloud of dust that he inhales. Emerald mist pours from his wounds and they slowly close. Sighing in relief, the Illidari makes his way to the cage and stops, furrowing his brow up at the Night elf within.

“These wooden beams are placed far enough apart for you to fit through.”

The druid furrows her brow. “It’s enchanted. Plus,” she purses her lips and motions at the dead satyr.

“We’ll get you out!” Alisbeth yells, plucking a key from Kagraxxis’s belt and bounding over to unlock the cage. “Hi. I’m Alisbeth.”

“Evelle. Thank you so much for rescuing me. Where is Thaon?”

Grimory blinks, realizing only then that he’d forgotten all about the druid. “He said he sensed something worse than this guy.” He kicks Kagraxxis’ head across the room and into the water. “He ran off to sniff it out.”

Evelle gasps. “Oh, no! Come, I’ll track him down.” She shifts into a panther and runs from the chamber.

Alisbeth takes Grimory’s hand and pulls him after. “You heard her! Let’s go!”

Grimory follows closely behind, having to push himself to keep up with the four-legged woman. “Do you know where we’re going?”

“I can smell him,” the druid says. She leads them outside and down the slope to a cave with an ornate doorway built into the opening. “He’s down there. I’ll keep watch out here.”

Alisbeth doesn’t wait. She races into the cave, following the path down deep into the ground. She screeches to a halt in a circular room. Blocking the next doorway stands a black demon with red corruption splitting his skin. “He put up quite a fight, but your archdruid belongs to me now…” With a sinister laugh the image fades and is gone.

The demon hunter follows without hesitation, giving a quick thank you to Evelle as they pass. “Maybe he took care of whatever he was looking for,” Grimory says tiredly as they near the end of the cave hall. The path leads into a circular room with nothing inside but huge roots lining the walls and another large cat, its fur misting red and black and eyes aglow with hunger and malice.

“The nightmare will consume you!” Thaon shouts and leaps at the two.

Alisbeth throws herself sideways and stares at the druid, her mouth turned in a frown. “That’s not fair!”

Grimory frowns as well and rolls out of the way. Leaping back to his feet, he sighs. “Well, that’s a shame.” He summons his claws and runs forward to swipe at the druid’s hind flank.

Alisbeth stands stunned as the druid and the demon hunter face off. Move, dammit. “I can’t.” Fight. “But he’s—” He’s gone! Take him out! Alisbeth purses her lips in a frown as she raises her weapon to swipe at Thaon’s front end, hoping injury will be enough.

Thaon roars as the blade crosses his chest and the claws slice into his back end. He leaps forward at Alisbeth, but crashes back to the floor. Grimory pulls the druid back to him by the tail and lays his claws into his other flank in hopes of disabling him and making the fight easier.

Alisbeth frowns as she lifts her sword over her head to drop the blade into his spine. She closes her eyes. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Thaon gives a loud roar that dwindles into a dying breath as he falls to the floor, blood pooling around his form.

Grimory sighs and looks down on the sad sight. “He’s better this way,” he says, seeing the pain in Alisbeth’s face.

Alisbeth shakes her head. “No, he’s not. He was better before. This isn’t fair.” She stomps from the chamber, but hesitates at the opening to the cave, not wanting to break the news to Evelle.

“Everything is fair when it comes to war, Ali,” Grimory says calmly as he follows. He sets a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll tell her. You needn’t worry about it.”

Alisbeth frowns. “Nothing is fair in war. Everyone just accepts it.” She shakes the blood from her sword and sheaths it across her back.

Grimory shakes his head and tucks his thumbs in his belt. “When nothing is fair, everything is fair.” He continues on down the cavern until they reach the exit. He gives Evelle a sympathetic frown but says nothing.

Alisbeth takes Evelle’s hand as she begins to cry. “I’m…so sorry…” She then takes Grimory’s hand in both of hers and stares at the ground.

The demon hunter sets his free hand on Evelle’s shoulder and squeezes Alisbeth’s with the other. “Remember him as he was, yeah? Something tells me he didn’t go willingly.”

The night elf nods through her sobs and rubs at her eye with the back of her fingers. “Yes. Yes, of course. The Nightmare has taken much from us. We will persevere. Thank you for all you’ve done.”

“Let’s get you some sleep,” Alisbeth says, pulling on his hand. She looks up at the dawning sky and sighs at the new day, wishing it were a happier one.

Grimory nods and runs a hand over his hair as he follows. “Yeah. Not even sure how I’m still functioning, to be honest.” He gives a crooked smile. “Though…I don’t have a tent. I just got that room in Lorlathil assuming I’d be running business around there.” He sighs. “You okay with going back there for a night? Er…afternoon?”

“Are you sure you’re okay to travel that far? Do you have to have a tent?”

He shrugs. “I suppose not. As long as I have you to keep me warm.” He gives her a smirk. “And it doesn’t rain, of course.”

Alisbeth giggles. “I can’t keep you warm. But I can watch over you as you sleep.” She sidles up to him and wraps his arm over her shoulders, then snuggles into his side.

Grimory shrugs and pulls her tightly to himself. “I’ll take what I can get, I suppose. Beggars can’t be choosers.” He leads her back onto the path out of the vale, then pulls the map from his side bag. “Though, it seems we’ll need to cut through Lorlathil on our way to the next stop, anyway.”

She matches his steps, stomping beside him. “If you can make it all the way, then sure. But if you collapse, I’ll drag you off the road, I swear. And smash any critter that comes near you. Smash them flat!”

He chuckles and shakes his head. “I don’t think critters will be the worst of our worries.” He stows the map and yawns, covering his mouth. “I think I’ll be fine. The morning air is kind of refreshing. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a second wind.”

Alisbeth tilts her head to give his ribs a gentle bite. “Okay. But don’t be a tough guy. To Labamba!”

Grimory jerks away at the nip, not expecting it. He chuckles again and furrows his brow. “Gee, not sure about that. No promises.” He kisses her temple and carries on down the trail, Lorlathil not far off between the trees.

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